Summary and book reviews of The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch

The Highest Tide

By Jim Lynch

The Highest Tide
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2005,
    272 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2006,
    272 pages.

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Book Summary

One moonlit night, thirteen-year-old Miles O'Malley slips out of his house, packs up his kayak and goes exploring on the flats of Puget Sound. But what begins as an ordinary hunt for starfish, snails, and clams is soon transformed by an astonishing sight: a beached giant squid. As the first person to ever see a giant squid alive, the speed-reading Rachel Carson-obsessed insomniac instantly becomes a local curiosity. When he later finds a rare deepwater fish in the tidal waters by his home, and saves a dog from drowning, he is hailed as a prophet. The media hovers and everyone wants to hear what Miles has to say.

But Miles is really just a teenager on the verge of growing up, infatuated with the girl next door, worried that his bickering parents will divorce, and fearful that everything, even the bay he loves, is shifting away from him. While the sea continues to offer up discoveries from its mysterious depths, Miles struggles to deal with the difficulties that attend the equally mysterious process of growing up. In this mesmerizing, beautifully wrought first novel, we witness the dramatic sea change for both Miles and the coastline that he adores over the course of a summer - one that will culminate with the highest tide in fifty years.

Chapter 1

I learned early on that if you tell people what you see at low tide they'll think you're exaggerating or lying when you're actually just explaining strange and wonderful things as clearly as you can.  Most of the time I understated what I saw because I couldn't find words powerful enough, but that's the nature of marine life and the inland bays I grew up on.  You'd have to be scientist, a poet and a comedian to hope to describe it all accurately, and even then you'd often fall short.   The truth is I sometimes lied about where or when I saw things, but take that little misdirection away and I saw everything I said I saw and more.

Most people realize the sea covers two thirds of the planet, but few take the time to understand even a gallon of it. Watch what happens when you try to explain something as basic as the tides, that the suction of the moon and the sun creates a bulge across the ocean that turns into a...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Miles narrates his own story of the summer he was 13, a summer in which he was "ambushed by science, fame and suggestions of the divine" (1). What is the effect of Miles' narration, and his occasional direct address to the reader, throughout the novel? How does Miles' voice contribute to the reader's sense of his character as "real"? How likeable is he as a narrator?
  2. Miles says, "most people realize the sea covers two thirds of the planet, but few take the time to understand even a gallon of it. … Most people don't want to invest a moment contemplating something like that unless they happen to stroll low tide alone at night with a ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

This is definitely a book to browse if you enjoy discovering new authors and especially if you find yourself drawn to the sea and all that lives in it.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (201 words).

Media Reviews
Library Journal - Lisa Rohrbaugh

Unfortunately, when it comes to his sexual awakening, the novel declines into juvenile mediocrity that contrasts sharply with the remainder of this exquisite tale. Nonetheless, easily recommended for all libraries.

Kirkus Reviews

On land, the rickety plot could have used some shoring up.... But when Miles is on the water, Lynch's first novel becomes a stunning light show, both literal, during phosphorescent plankton blooms, and metaphorical, in the poetic fireworks Lynch's prose sets off as he describes his clearly beloved Puget Sound. A celebratory song of the sea.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. While occasionally Lynch packs too much into a small story, this moving, unusual take on the summers of childhood conveys a contagious sense of wonder at the variety and mystery of the natural world.

Author Blurb Martha McPhee, author of Gorgeous Lies
Jim Lynch has written a breathtakingly beautiful first novel. At its core is a fabulous metaphor, rising from the ocean to wrap around his painful story with all the brilliance and mystery of life. That is a big statement. Lynch can carry its weight and then some.

Author Blurb Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love
The Highest Tide is a plunge into sustained and intelligent wonder. Jim Lynch creates a richly tumultuous world on a microcosmic stage. His characters and events are as complex and surprising as the sea that surrounds them. He's got me re-reading Rachel Carson and itching for tide pools of my own."

Author Blurb Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
In The Highest Tide, Jim Lynch has written a masterful first novel, gracefully weaving together the wonders of the sea and the wonders of our humanity. Seeing the world through the eyes of his narrator, Miles O'Malley, is to see the world with a rapturous freshness that is, it seems to me, the essence of a fine book. This is an exciting debut. I can't wait to see what Jim Lynch does next.

Reader Reviews
Melissa

Makes me want to dig for clams
I listened to this book on audio and loved the author's passion for the sea. I've always loved going to the beach, but don't like going in the water for fear of something slimy brushing up against me. This book made me excited about things like ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Jim Lynch has won national journalism awards and published short fiction in literary magazines, and spent four years as the Puget Sound reporter for the Oregonian. A Washington State native, Lynch currently writes and sails from his home in Olympia, where he lives with his wife and daughter. The Highest Tide is his first novel.

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